Sunday, August 30, 2009

Use Lang-8 and Snapvine to get your foreign-language speech corrected

Update: Snapvine closed shop on March 31, 2010, but you can still get your foreign-language speech corrected on Lang-8 using a similar service called Cinch.

Lang-8 is designed to help you get your writing corrected, but with a little help from a tool called Snapvine, you can also get your speech corrected.

How to do it, after the jump.

While using Lang-8 lately, I noticed that one of my Japanese-speaking correctors often submits posts in English where he additionally includes both the Japanese text and an audio recording of the Japanese. Now, him providing the Japanese is a boon for Japanese learners, but it quickly dawned on me that this could work in the other direction just as easily; Lang-8 users could critique audio recordings of learners' target language speech.

To provide these audio recordings, he used Snapvine, which allows you to record "audio blogs". Today, I put this idea to the test with the following two audio recordings, the first in Japanese and the second in Chinese:

Comment | Copy This

Comment | Copy This

Sure enough, I got back corrections for the audio recordings on Lang-8 just as I would for any written submission. And it's real easy to do. Here's how:
  1. You'll need accounts on both Lang-8 and Snapvine, so go ahead and sign up for those.
  2. Once you've done that, go to your homepage in Snapvine and click on "create new post".
  3. Now you can record a message. By default, it selects your phone as the way to record, but click on the tab "Microphone" to use your computer's mic. Record away.
  4. Add a title (and any of the other things that you care to add—you'll see what's there on the page) and press "Publish".
  5. Click "Share" and copy the URL that you find under the text "Copy and paste this URL into an email or instant message".
  6. Head on over to Lang-8 and click on "Write a new entry".
  7. Now paste the URL that you copied over on Snapvine into your entry, add in any additional text you want (I've been putting in a little bit of an explanation), and submit it.
  8. Await your corrections. They will arrive shortly!
Besides needing to jump through all the hoops noted above, I've got two major complaints about this set-up. First, unless the correctors on Lang-8 actually correct some text as well, you can't provide Lang-8's "thanks points" to them. Second, there's no quick way for them to provide you with a recording of their own (although the above process works for corrections as well as for submissions).

What would truly be spectacular is if Lang-8 would support this right out of the box. Doing it through a quick trip to Snapvine is OK, but the process could be made much more streamlined.

One more cool thing about Snapvine is the number of ways you can get audio recordings on there. One way is that you can call a number on your cellphone to leave recordings (and then add them to Lang-8 later). That of course is applicable to the iPhone as well, but with the iPhone you also can benefit from another of Snapvine's features: audio file uploading. By using the iPhone Voice Memo app whenever the mood hits you, you can record some foreign-language speech, upload it to Snapvine, and then make Lang-8 entries out of them to get your pronunciation, etc., corrected. Very sweet.

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